Turtle & Dugong Taskforce

Turtle & Dugong Taskforce

Sustainability of Turtle and Dugong

Dugong (Dugong Dugon) and Green Turtle (Chelonia mydas) have been hunted sustainably by the Traditional Owners of Cape York for thousands of years. However recently, populations have suffered global declines and are currently protected as a listed in Queensland waters under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act. In the modern world, turtle and dugong are subjected to new and increasingly dangerous threats, including boat strikes, habitat loss, disease, reproductive failure, ghost nets, climate change, invasive animals and marine debris. These, and many more impacts caused by lifestyle choices of Australians, add to the natural pressure placed on the animals.

For many Traditional Owners on Cape York, turtle and dugong are a significant aspect of their culture and a traditional source of sustenance. Traditional Owners have a cultural responsibility to manage the impacts of human activity on land and sea, and the animals in those environments, in a way that maintains the well-being of humans, animals, land and sea. It is important for turtle and dugong populations to be sustainable and protected for future generations.

In September 2011, a group of senior Traditional Owners from Cape York came together in Cairns to discuss turtle, dugong, culture and identity. The group believed there was willingness in their communities to step up and address their impacts on these species. The group wrote to Tony Burke, Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities. The State and the Federal Governments agreed to invest in a workshop to work towards addressing this issue.

This workshop, held in November 2011, led to the development of the Cape York Peninsula Turtle and Dugong Strategy and a process to establish the Cape York Turtle and Dugong Taskforce of Traditional Owners (the Taskforce), which would guide and implement the strategy. In February 2012 the Queensland and Federal Governments committed to the finalisation of the Strategy. Further funding was agreed in-principle, once the strategy was committed and Taskforce was established, to enable implementation of the Strategy to June 2013 in conjunction with Balkanu Cape York development Corporation.